Evil as Natural Inclination

I’ve been reading, lately, a treatise by the 18th Century philosopher Immanuel Kant in which he determines through his meticulous thought processes that man is evil by nature. He reasons that, while man is aware of moral laws, that there are morally acceptable behaviors toward others one knows should be followed, there is at the same time a natural inclination to favor personal interests above moral concerns for others that may, when push comes to shove, result in evil behaviors.

So, I guess everyone is naturally inclined to be evil, although I suppose one could quantify degrees of evilness: whether one’s self-interest completely undermines rules of morality resulting in despicable behaviors, as opposed to those of us who occasionally find ourselves exaggerating reality for personal gain if we think we can get away with it. The latter doesn’t seem to me to be evil, exactly, but probably merits a certain sense of shame, at least a guilty conscience.

I wonder if Kant thought himself to be evil in any sense. I understand he was pretty reclusive, hardly left his home but for a daily walk around the neighborhood. He probably didn’t have the opportunity to be too evil.

4 thoughts on “Evil as Natural Inclination

  1. I think the duality of the material world requires it; all things have their opposing force to maintain some sort of equilibrium in the universe, be it gross or more subtle energies.

    Jung taught that that we’re all perfectly capable of evil and it’s only when we’re unconscious of that fact that we can easily fall into its trap, suddenly seized by some long-buried complex, projecting our own capacity for evil onto others for whatever reason, even if it’s simply to follow the crowd into some “participation mystique”.

    The inverse can be true as well, however rare, projecting unconscious “good” into the world. It depends on the state of our consciousness.

    In either case, I think we vastly underestimate the power of conformity in this regard.

    • Sound thinking Sudrakarma; the duality seems pretty straight forward; what attracted me to the idea was how EVIL has taken on otherworldly connotations, somehow associated with the supernatural well beyond the usually petty dishonesty so prevalent these days.

      • Yes, isn’t that interesting. I think we prefer to think of evil as “other” – not us. That’s the very definition of Jung’s “shadow” – that which we have no wish to be and hides in the unconscious. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. 🙂

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